Reverend Thomas Plassmann, O.F.M., the president of St. Bonaventure University at the time, went to Rome and talked to Pope Pius XI to get permission for a new seminary. Pius felt that the seminary should be named Christ the King, the first such seminary with that name. He felt that there couldn't be a more fitting name for a seminary.
The idea of a Seminary to train priests, and members of the clergy came about in he early 1800ís. During this time Catholic followers were on the rise but had very little in the way of a community or a church they could commute to. By around 1850 it was clear to the Vatican that this was a problem in Western New York. Their solution was to hopefully expand the churches presents in the area, and connect its followers with an orderly, structured service, as apposed to home temples. To combat this, the idea came about of build a school that could operate and fund itself a while also producing clergy members that would go on to serve the community.
The man leading this was Nicholas Devereux, a self made millionaire and a strongly devoted man of faith. Being a man of means and strongly devotion to the Catholic faith Devereux decided to build and finance one of the first Catholic churches in the Southern Tier. The only problem was that he couldnít find a priest to hold regular sermons, they were all tied up within their own communities elsewhere. With Nicholas Devereux leading the charge the newly appointed bishop of buffalo went to Rome to try and secure members of the order to come back to America and begin teaching and training people to become religious leaders. This begins the story of the Franciscan Friars in Olean, St. Bonaventure University was to become a school for priests and a students.
The school would continue to grow and expand. By 1930 St. Bonaventure boasted about having almost seven hundred students and over a dozen buildings. A sharp increase form is beginning with 15 students and one building. But on May 5, 1930 a large fire broke out on campuses ravishing the Church, Monastery, and Seminary, all housed in the original building on campus. In the wake of the fire it became clear that something needed to be done about the sudden lack of resources on campus and loss of clerical facilities. Within no time at all it was decided that they must rebuild and start over. While by this time there were other seminaries in New York, none were as large or as pristine as the one here in Olean. On June 8, 1933 a ground breaking ceremony took place to welcome the new and up incoming Christ the King Seminary. Although the construction process would be plagued with setbacks due to depression, fires, and World War II, and would eventually take nearly twenty years to complete.
In later years a decline in Catholic followers forced the Catholic Church to reorganize and restructure itís self in the wake of Vatican II. As a result they decided to consolidate and move the Christ the Kings Seminary farther north near Buffalo joining two seminaries into one. The new site in East Aurora New York still holds the name of the Olean Seminary. In the wake of Christ the King leaving, the large building left behind was integrated into the rest of the St. Bonaventure campus and became dormitory for students in 1974.
Architect Cajetan Baumann, O.F.M. designed the new seminary and ground was broken on November 1, 1948. Classes began October 22, 1951. Christ the King replaced the previous seminary which burned down in 1930. The seminary was not completely finished when classes began, but it was inhabitable. 212 seminarians were admitted for the first year with the Very Reverend John Lambert Rowan, O.F.M., serving as rector. During the years between the old seminary burning down and Christ the King being built, the seminarians were located in the fourth and fifth floors of Devereux Hall.
"After four years of construction, the $2.5 million, 1.6 million cubic foot structure was dedicated on November 10 and 11, 1952. The Most Reverend Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, apostolic delegate to the United States blessed the seminary's St. John the Evangelist Chapel [now known as the San Damiano Room]. Attendees included prominent clergy from around the country, such as the most Reverend Joseph Burke, a bishop from Buffalo, and priests from China and Puerto Rico." ( BonaVenture February 26, 1999, p. 3)
picture replaced by D. Frank 1/9/2004; Architect added by D. Frank 1/13/04.
Brett Reed Spring 2011.